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Levels of Meaning, Embodiment, and Communication

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Departing from the theoretical framework of the semiotic hierarchy (Zlatev, 2009), realizing a form of cognitive semiotics based on 'integrating methods and theories developed in the disciplines of cognitive science with methods and theories developed in semiotics and the humanities'i (cf. www.cognitivesemiotics.com) the paper analyzes the concepts of embodiment and communication along an evolutionary progression of four levels: biological, phenomenological, significational (sign-based) and extended/normative. Examples of human and animal communication are provided in order to clarify these distinct levels. Further, the concept of bodily mimesis and the model of the mimesis hierarchy (Zlatev, 2008; Zlatev & Andrén, 2009) that is predicated upon it are offered as conceptual and empirical tools in order to help explain the transitions leading to the two highest meaning levels: to sign use proper (from pre-sign meanings); and from this to normative, and eventually body-independent, objectified sign systems such as those of writing and mathematics. The leitmotif of the paper is the risk of either exaggerating or down playing the bodily bases of meaning and communication.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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